Carl Orff (July 10, 1895 – March 29, 1982) was a 20th-century German composer, most famous for Carmina Burana (1935/6). He was also successful and influential in the field of music education. Orff is best known for Carmina Burana (1935/6), a "scenic cantata". It is the first part of a trilogy that also includes Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite. Carmina Burana reflected his interest in medieval German poetry. The trilogy as a whole is called Trionfi, or "Triumphs". The composer described it as the celebration of the triumph of the human spirit through sexual and holistic balance. The work was based on thirteenth-century poetry found in a manuscript dubbed the Codex latinus monacensis found in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuern in 1803 and written by the Goliards; this collection is also known as Carmina Burana. While "modern" in some of his compositional techniques, Orff was able to capture the spirit of the medieval period in this trilogy, with infectious rhythms and simple harmonies. The medieval poems, written in Latin and an early form of German, are often racy, but without descending into smut. "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi", commonly known as "O Fortuna", from Carmina Burana, is often used to denote primal forces. Orff was reluctant to term any of his works simply operas in the traditional sense. For example, he referred to his works Der Mond (The Moon, 1939) and Die Kluge (The Wise Woman, 1943) as Märchenopern ("fairytale operas"). Both compositions feature the same "timeless" sound, called timeless because they do not employ any of the musical techniques of the period in which they were composed, with the intent that they be difficult to define as belonging to a particular era. Their melodies, rhythms, and accompanying text form a unique union of words and music. About his Antigonae (1949), Orff said specifically that it was not an opera but rather a Vertonung, a "musical setting", of the ancient tragedy.
In pedagogical circles he is probably best remembered for his Schulwerk ("School Work"). Originally a set of pieces composed and published for the Güntherschule (which had students ranging from 12 to 22), this title was also used for his books based on radio broadcasts in Bavaria in 1949. These pieces are collectively called Musik für Kinder (Music for Children), and also use the term Schulwerk, and were written in collaboration with his former pupil, composer and educator Gunild Keetman, who actually wrote most of the settings and arrangements in the "Musik für Kinder" ("Music for Children") volumes. Orff's ideas were developed, together with Gunild Keetman, into a very innovative approach to music education for children, known as the "Orff Schulwerk". The music is elemental and combines movement, singing, playing, and improvisation.